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The weather is glorious
Apr 28th, 2006 by teragram

I had always assumed that a large part of that “May weekend feeling” — you know, the one where the sun is shining, the trees are blossoming, and all is well with the world? — I had always assumed it was largely relief. Having been deprived of sunlight for four or five months the mind is searching for something to be happy about. Well it isn’t, because I wasn’t. Deprived, that is.

Ireland is beautiful, and I am glad to be back. I’ve done some work today, finished the Irish Times Crosaire crossword for the first time in my life (with a little help from a friend), and the sun is shining it’s little boots off. I am pleased. Here are some more things I’m pleased about:

  • The house C and I are renting is ours alone for the next year, and it’s lovely.
  • Said house is approximately 4 minutes walk from the nearest train station, which is about 30 seconds walk from C’s workplace.
  • My laptop no longer has a little yellow line running down the left of the screen, thanks to the very friendly Dell man.
  • I’m leaving early to go to the bank which stays open until 5!
  • The e-voting system’s death rattle is becoming positively audible (do you think they’d sell me one?)
  • There’s a direct train from work to home in the evenings.
  • The trees are blossoming

Well, I’d better go or I’ll miss the bank, despite its revolutionary opening hours

Teragram

Show me the way to go home …
Apr 3rd, 2006 by teragram

So it’s been a while since I wrote here, and you’ve probably already noticed that this is a short one. I have plans for a long entry about my trip back to Nancy, and I will write it, but I’m too busy for that this week.

We’re coming home this Friday. It’s sooner than we had intended, but we’re glad. We had intended to travel a bit before coming home, but for various reasons two weeks rest sounded better than two weeks galavanting around India. We found a house to rent, really near C’s work, and we’ve put down the deposit. That’s a nice feeling, having our own place to come home to.

So anyway, we’re really looking forward to seeing all of you, but we’re tired and have a lot to organise, so we’ll probably be laying fairly low for a couple of weeks. Once we’re settled, we’ll start inviting you around to our new place. \o/

See y’all soon,
Tg

Kerala photos
Mar 4th, 2006 by teragram

Just a quick note to say the photos from our Kerala trip are now up at http://www.flickr.com/photos/meaigs/

It’s getting hot in here, let’s turn on all our fans
Feb 27th, 2006 by teragram

The temperature is rising folks. We’re in the mid- to late-thirties and it’s only going to get hotter.
/me melts

We went to Cochin (aka Kochi) in Kerala (God’s Own Country) for the weekend. We being me, C and A. I bought a painting from the world’s coolest cafe/art-shop. It’s unselfconsciously cool, which makes it even cooler. Basically it’s a two-storey shop in Jewtown (yes, that’s what the area’s actually called) filled with piles of paintings. There is no better word than strewn for the arrangment of said works of art. In the middle of the upper floor are a couple of tables with some mis-matched chairs. We knew the sign outside had said coffee shop, but we had to ask someone before we were sure this was it. We had a masala tea while I pondered which painting to buy. C, who wasn’t there when I bought it, is no longer frightened of it, thankfully.

Paying caused some difficulty. Both our bank cards were eaten by bank machines in Bangalore (hopefully our new ones are winging their way to us now), so we were relying on credit cards for the weekend. Unfortunately, the art shop was too cool for credit cards. A‘s brave attempt to get some cash by going on the back of the owner’s skooter to a nearby bank machine failed. So the owner suggested that I take the painting, and he come to my hotel later for the money. Luckily for him, I told him the name of the hotel I was actually staying at. I had thought I’d gotten the painting for a reasonable price, but when he brought all his kids with him to pick up the money I had to wonder if he was bringing them out for a slap-up meal on this poor schmo.

We took a backwater tour on Saturday. The first half was a smooth, leisurely trip on a sort of a large canoe powered by two muscley men. The pace and the scenery really reminded me of The Thin Red Line, but the whole day was mercifully free of gun-shots. The second half started really well. We had a Keralan Thali on a lovely house-boat, and another gentle trip across wider stretches of water. Then we got to The Island We Would Never Have Visited. We got to see sea-shells being turned into calcium-hydroxowhatsit. This involves a fascinating exo-thermic chemical reaction which gives off noxious, and no doubt dangerous, fumes. There was an unspoken consensus that we should vacate that room as quickly as possible. It was even more uncomfortable than the previous room where we were told that temperatures can rise to 4000 degrees celsius, as we all tried to clear our minds of images of burning human bones.

We were then treated to an interminable tour around the garden of the man running the tour. We could tell it was his garden, because he had occasional shouted conversations with his wife. Every plant was good for Ayurvedic medicine, apparently. And of course Ayurveda is better than western medicine because it treats the cause of the illness rather than just the symptoms. Did you know that by eating the roots of a particular plant, diabetics need no longer take insulin? Or that if a pregnant lady drinks pineapple juice with black pepper it will help keep her child healthy but that if she drinks pineapple juice without pepper it will cause an abortion? My favourite of his theories was that smokers get cancer because they lack vitamin C. All you need to do is have a glass of pineapple juice a week (with pepper of course, if you’re pregnant) and you can smoke away to your heart’s content. Pun intended.

C, who’s given up standing for such things, had long since returned to the boat. The whole group gladly joined him when the garden tour seemed to be over. The boat trip back was just as pleasant as the trip out had been. So all in all it was lovely, and even the boring bit was educational! Who knew Ayurveda could be so powerful, and without the use of science?

Tomorrow’s pancake Tuesday! I’ll have to enlist A‘s help tomorrow evening in preparing some sugary lemony treats.

On another unrelated tangent: does the headline “Too Few Female Tech Leaders, But Efforts Under Way to Grow More” make anyone else think of ladies in business suits being grown in vats? Or is it just me?

Tg – melting

“Can I hinder you madam?”
Feb 16th, 2006 by teragram

In India, every shop is over-staffed. On the positive side, it does mean that if you want to ask a question – such as “do you have any bathrobes?” – you don’t have to find an attendant first. There will be one nearby. Hovering. Unfortunately, he (or she) will continue to hover. When you focus on the bathrobes, not showing any indication that you are about to ask for more help, trying to ignore the feeling of being watched, he will say “can I help you madam?” It may not sound annoying, if you haven’t experienced it, but it is. Once, when I was shopping for moisturiser, I had a very strong urge to run out screaming “leave me alone!” at the six women offering their ‘help’ in the moisturiser section.

It’s the incompetence that does it. The bathrobe example is a case in point. He searched for five minutes for an XL bathrobe that was not pink. “No colours madam, only pink”. “No other colours? Not even white?”. “No colours madam”. I thanked him and walked away. As I browsed through the asymmetrical saucers and other arty home furnishings a suspicion crept upon me. I had lost my friend at this point, and I decided to go back and check for myself. I found two white XL bathrobes within a minute. Between finding the first and the second, another ‘assistant’ asked what I was looking for. I explained, and continued searching. That always makes them uncomfortable, when you search for yourself. I found the second and legged it.

In a way, it makes me feel like a bit of a bitch, being so irritated by this. But I just want them to leave me alone and let me get on with what I’m doing. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that it’s someone’s job to press the buttons in a lift. But I’m glad he has a job. I don’t want my driver to wheel my wheely bag. It’s very light, and it has wheels!

I suppose it says something about our bubble of privilege that the most annoying thing here is getting too much help.

On a less moany note, here’s a map of countries I’ve visited:

create your own visited countries map

Tg

Harro!
Feb 14th, 2006 by teragram

I’m back! I’ve been busy with an essay for my Open University course, and a trip to Mumbai (see below), so I haven’t had a chance to post for a while. But lucky for you I’ve found a spare five minutes. Before I go into my adventures in Mumbai, check out this quote I came across in “Big Bang” by Simon Singh. It was Georges Lemaître (a Catholic priest, and one of the first scientists to suggest what is now known as the big bang) who said:

“Hundreds of professional and amateur scientists actually believe that the Bible pretends to teach science. This is a good deal like assuming that there must be authentic religious dogma in the binomial theorem”

I love it.

Aaaanyway. I went to Mumbai with our current Irish companion here in our bubble of privilege, A. C didn’t come along, because he was nerding it up with Linux geeks in Delhi, and didn’t get back in time. In some ways, the trip was more adventuresome than we had planned. For instance, we got to experience first-hand a minor airport taxi scam. “Madam, you gave me a 100 instead of a 500”. I can’t tell you how much I’m still kicking myself for giving in on that. At least when he went on to rip the 500 rupee note and ask us to replace it because it was ripped, I held my ground. I still can’t figure out where he was going with that. I should have offered him his 100 back.

So then he said we had to get into another taxi, because our current taxi was out of petrol. What was it doing picking up people at the airport with so little petrol I ask you? Lying in wait, that’s what. I must say, I was pretty nervous at this point, but thankfully the thief didn’t get into the new taxi with us. The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, except for the taxi’s decor. There was this … pole, in between the two front seats. It looked like a pole-dancing pole, but without any room to manoeuvre. The ceiling was also mirrored. I wish I’d taken pictures (I did get a photo of another mirror-ceilinged taxi). The new taxi driver asked us how much we had paid the thief (I guess he knew who he was dealing with) and I said “five fifty”. He calmly replied “5 thousand?” and I must admit I laughed. We had been ripped off for 400 rupees, but surely no-one would be thick enough to pay 100 euro for a taxi ride in India. Surely.

We made it safely to our hotel. It’s a nice place, but we had a strong suspicion that it used to be part of the nearby hospital. In the velour-lined hotel bar, on the last night, we met some friendly English masons. That’s right, freemasons. “We’re here on masonic business”, they said. A finished her drink mysteriously quickly, and we left. We waited till we got to the lift to break our hearts laughing. Afterwards we kind of wished we’d stayed and asked them some questions. What would you have asked?

There was a meal at a revolving restaurant. The view was beautiful, but the food wasn’t great. We had some sushi (vegetarian, of course), and the wasabi was toxic. I actually had to spit out a whole piece of sushi, because I felt like I had a mouthful of turpentine filling my nose with fumes. That was a shame, because the sushi itself was quite nice. The other dishes we ordered were in goopy sauces, and were pretty disappointing.

We played “easy-listening” at the bar with the world’s worst mix of decor. The walls are all faux 18th century, except for the cornice which is an underwater scene, complete with fish. Easy-listening is the game where you try to be the first to figure out what song the bar-singer is playing. A totally kicked my ass at that game. Even when I figured out what it was first, I could never think of the name. We left to “Knock knock knocking on heaven’s door”.

Beautiful.

Tg

Delhi is smelly
Jan 23rd, 2006 by teragram

But we had fun there, despite our breathing difficulties. Four of us headed up there for the weekend, and we had a very enjoyable time. I’ve posted a bunch of new photos from the trip on flickr.

One of the highlights was a trip to a Sikh temple. It was basically evangelism on the part of our rickshaw driver. He showed us around the temple, and explained some things to us. He showed us the area where they serve free food every meal, every day, for anyone who wants it. That was striking. There’s a large area where they roll out mats as they’re needed for diners. Then there’s the area where the bread is made, and the area where the vegetables are cooked. He pointed out repeatedly that Sikhs don’t believe in castes at all. Every who eats the food there eats together on the floor. He gave us a little leaflet explaining some things about Sikhism. I hadn’t realised just how little I knew about the religion before going there. Not that I’m that well-informed now, but at least I know some basics.

We ate lunch in a place called Kalim’s, right by the big mosque near the red fort (which was “100% closed” as we were informed by hawkers trying to convince us to take a cycle rickshaw). We ended up walking right around the mosque to get there and back. On the way back a random guy saw me looking at a cat and said “bildi, bildi, meow, meow”. He said it a few times, and I said “cat, bildi” and he was chuffed. So then he pointed to a goat and said something like “bakalak”. I think he got bored then, because he went away. I think it was S who said that if he ever had a pet goat he’d call it Burt (as in Burt Bakalak).

After that we went into the Tibetan Refugee Wollen Association Tibetan Refugee Wollen Association Exhibition cum Sale of Himalayan region. I bought two shawls of the softest wool I’ve ever felt. I think they might be Yak wool. I’ve washed one, hoping that doesn’t ruin it. If it doesn’t I’ll wash the other the same way.

C had to stay an extra day to do some work in Dehli, but he stayed in a different hotel, because it was organised by The Company. We went for a drink there on our way to the airport. It was the kind of hotel where the bar has a box of cigars on display. It’s funny that, no matter how luxurious a hotel bar gets, it can never wash off that slight smell of lonliness.

So anyway, we had a great time. The air in Delhi is pretty bad though. If I was going to spend any more than a couple of days there I’d definitely want to wear a mask. It’s surprising that we never saw anyone wearing one. Makes you wonder what Beijing will be like. *shudder*.

Tg

Is it really too much to ask?
Jan 20th, 2006 by teragram

We have one key to our apartment. As you might imagine, it can be quite a pain. There have been multiple occasions where one of us had to wake the other to get in. I had intended to get a copy cut when we were back for Christmas, but it slipped my mind. Apparently, the owner of the apartments has asked that no duplicates be made. Well, I couldn’t give a rat’s arse whether he approves or not. A key for each resident of the apartment is really not too much to ask.

So, having asked in vain for several months for a second key, I decided yesterday to go and get one cut. I discovered that key-cutting here is not the same as it is at home. Maybe there are shops here with big key cutting machines, but I didn’t see any on my little expedition. Instead, I saw guys sitting on the side of the road with big key shaped signs cut from metal and bunches of uncut keys hanging above them.

The first guy offered to copy it for 250 rupees (about 5 euro), but my driver thought that was exorbitant. What really made me uncomfortable was that he wanted to hold onto the key for an hour. So we went to another road-side key-cutter who offered to do it for 100 rupees. Now, the apartments we’re living in are … somewhat exclusive. There are some very wealthy people living here, from what I can make out. So the keys are not your common-or-garden jaggedy edge kind of key. They have sort of dents bored into them, of various depths. Suffice it to say that I doubted this guys ability to make a copy of my key. He looks through his stock though, and seemed to find a suitable uncut-key, so I handed mine over. The driver parked the car and walked back to the guy with my hundred rupees.

I had to stifle a laugh when my driver handed me this:

New keyNew key (back)

I could have done a better job!

I think the thing I love most about it is that he didn’t say “you know what: I can’t copy that key”. He just did his best – which he must have known was never in a milllion years going to open my door – and passed it on down the line.

Classic.

Tg

Bye bye, RedBrick
Jan 18th, 2006 by teragram

I have finally let my RedBrick account die. (RedBrick is the computer society at Dublin City University). I first got the account way back in 1997 during my brief sojourn at DCU. You could say RB is where I first met C, and it’s certainly where I got to know a lot of my friends. RedBrick gave me my first email address, my first introduction to Unix, my first website. It (because of the people I met there) made my time in DCU bearable. Not bearable enough to stay there, of course.

The email address will still work until October or so, but it’s set to forward everything to another account of mine. I spent a long time downloading all the data from the account onto my laptop. I’ll have to got through it all, and delete what I don’t need. There’s some stuff I’ll keep for nostalgia’s sake though: like the instructions C gave me for using ftp the first time.

It’s such a strange feeling, letting go of old stuff like that. I was seriously tempted to renew the account, once I realised it had expired. But I have too many email addresses, and it really is time to let it go. It feels a bit like throwing out old pieces of paper that you never look at except when you tidy your room and agonise over whether or not to throw them out. There’s something cleansing about it.

Unfortunately, the hours spent nursing WinSCP through the download of 8 and half years of accumulated files – while it was being hampered by our ultra-shitty ‘net connection – have aggravated my already-acting-up RSI. Less Internet for me! So not only is this entry rather short, but it probably won’t be replaced for at least a few days.

See you when the pain and numbness recede,
Tg

Back in the land of house-boys
Jan 10th, 2006 by teragram

Now that I’ve gotten a couple of hours work done (before lunch!) I feel I can write a blog entry: not only without feeling guilty, but also without sounding whiney. Yesterday’s attempt was too whiney to post, I’m afraid.

Christmas was wonderful. It was everything Christmas should be. We spent lots of time with both our families. We saw more of our friends than we’d hoped, though less than we would have liked. We ate more Christmas dinners than anyone could reasonably ask for, all of them excellent. It was full of good food and warmth and gentle, relaxing comfort.

It’s strange but good to be back here, with such familiar strangeness. I expect we’ll know within the next couple of weeks whether we’ll be going to China (or anywhere else) after we’re finished here. I definitely want to spend a couple of months at home first if we do, but I’m really excited about the possibility.

I sure hope I pass my driving test the first time. I’m expecting to get a date in May, which means I won’t have a lot of time to practice. But I’d really like to have it before we head off anywhere else. Even if I don’t end up driving in any other countries, I’d like to have all that out of the way.

Well, short as this entry is, I should get back to work. Miracle of miracles! I actually feel like working. God is good.

Tg

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